Fulfilling the Ultimate Function of Religion

The development of religion in India took a different tack than that in the West for the most part. The primary difference was that India refused to close off any possible avenue to the Divine realisation, and thus, wound up with an enormous diversity and complexity of religious activities which did not block off or restrict any avenue of life or intellectual development. By contrast in the West, the focus continued to narrow until eventually religion came into conflict with the development of the intellectual powers particularly the scientific revolution, a conflict which still obtains today in some places.

Sri Aurobindo provides us several ultimate goals that religion is to achieve, and looked at from that light, it is essential that a broad diversity of effort and embracing of all aspects of life and intellect be permitted within the framework of the spiritual impulse. “The individual demands from religion a door of opening into spiritual experience or a means of turning towards it, a communion with God or a definite light of guidance on the way, a promise of the hereafter or a means of a happier supraterrestrial future; these needs can be met on the narrower basis of credal belief and sectarian cult. But there is also the wider purpose of Nature to prepare and further the spiritual evolution in man and turn him into a spiritual being; religion serves her as a means for pointing his effort and his ideal in that direction and providing each one who is ready with the possibility of taking a step upon the way towards it.”

“Whatever errors Religion has committed, this is her function and her great and indispensable utility and service,–the holding up of this growing light of guidance on our way through the mind’s ignorance towards the Spirit’s complete consciousness and self-knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”

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